From Monkey to Robot

Thursday, 27 November, 2014 - 20:00

In times of Google Glass, 3D printers and genetic tests over the internet, we are ever-increasingly being confronted with the unstoppable development of nano- and biotechnology. How is society as a whole supposed to deal with this evolution?



De Centrale
Kraankindersstraat 2
9000 Ghent

  • 19:00 Welcoming speech
  • 20:00 Start debate
  • 22:00 End

Public perception fluctuates between two extremes: fear of the 'unnatural' and unbridled optimism. According to this last ideology, transhumanism, man must and shall transcend his own limitations. Technology will make our lives healthier, stronger, smarter and longer.

Shall we soon take evolution into our own hands? Is eternal life just around the corner? Will we become cyborgs: half-man, half-robot? What are the practical and ethical objections? These questions and more will be the subject of the debate between Kris Verburgh, Pieter Bonte, Martijntje Smits and Arjen Kamphuis.

Kris Verburgh is a doctor and a publicist. His controversial book De Voedselzandloper was a 2012 best-seller in Flanders and The Netherlands. In the book he tried to establish a link between our eating habits and our aging process. Verburgh dreams of a world wherein humanity will be able to quench its thirst at the Fountain of Youth. This is why he pleads for more research into aging and life-prolonging techniques..

Pieter Bonte is a philosopher and does research into the arguments that both transhumanists and their bio-conservative counterparts bring to the table. He fears that biotech will ever-increasingly condemn us to making delicate choices about what our body should look like and when exactly we should end our own existence.

Martijntje Smits is an engineer and a philosopher of technique. She does research into the societal consequences of new technologies, which she calls 'modern monsters'. Smits compares the contradictory reactions in public perception (exagerated fascination or ungrounded fear) with the way primitive peoples would look at monsters: either by idolizing or abhorring them.

Arjen Kamphuis advises companies and governments on new technologies. In earlier times he was an outspoken advocate of all science directed towards the improvement of humanity. In 1998 for example, he was involved in the founding of Transvision,the first European transhumanist conference. Today he has lost his initial optimism, becoming much more sceptical about technological innovation.

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